This debate is quickly spilling over into our New Testament assemblies. Assemblies have usually taken a middle of the road position on this issue. We see the truths of God choosing (Romans 11:7) and man choosing (Matthew 23:37 and Luke 18:22,23) both taught in Scripture. And if we dont completely understand how these two concepts fit together, we still accept all that the Bible has to say about this issue.
Yet there are some within our assemblies who are pushing us to take a more Calvinistic view. Some are graduates of the schools we have supported, and some have simply fallen under the sway of well meaning but extremely zealous Calvinists. I write this article because I am afraid that extreme Calvinism has serious consequences, and is going to damage many assemblies over the next few years, and will cause much disunity and many splits.
Perhaps the greatest danger of extreme Calvinism is its obsessive nature. While some who hold this view possess fine Christian character, many can talk about little else. They will push the doctrine of election when they preach, when they pray and when they worship. Some will even push for the adoption of this doctrine to become a test of fellowship. Some assemblies, having fallen under the influence of strong Calvinists, now declare that a man cannot be an elder until he has understood Gods sovereign grace (which is a euphemism for adopting a strongly Calvinist position). It is probable that these people will feel that other Christians have a defective view of Gods sovereignty.
Another danger concerns how extreme Calvinists deal with Scripture. Any verse that seems to imply human decision must be explained away or made to fit into some sophisticated theory. Some verses are radically reinterpreted. For example, an extreme Calvinist would say that the gift in Ephesians 2:8,9 is faith, not salvation. They will tell us that references to world, as in John 3:16, do not actually refer to all men, but only the elect.
A third danger concerns how the Gospel is preached. We are thankful for every Calvinist who sees the need to preach the Gospel (and most do see this need), but we might be surprised at some of what they say. Instead of calling out for sinners to repent and make their decision today, they will pray that God would give them grace. It is likely that a sinner would be confused at what the Calvinist is saying. An extreme Calvinist can never tell a sinner that God loves them and wants to save them, because in their system of theology, God only loves some. The extreme Calvinist will never tell sinners that Christ died to save them, because under their system of theology, Christs atonement is limited, and He only died for some.
The final danger of extreme Calvinism is that it presents an unbiblical viewpoint of the character of God. Some in the Calvinist camp, including Arthur W. Pink, and even John Calvin himself believed that God creates people for the purpose of damning them. If this was the teaching of Scripture, we would be forced to accept it, but it is not. Such views are the speculations of theological extremists.
The relationship between Gods election and mans choosing is a deep one. There are no easy answers. But both truths are taught in Scripture. Calvinists are not cultists, but brothers and sisters who have taken a Biblical truth to an unbiblical extreme. Calvinism, in its extreme form has very serious consequences, and those who shepherd the believers, as well as all Christians who love the Word of God and the Gospel, must guard against those who would push us into a dangerously one-sided position.